This weekend I celebrated my 31st rotation of the Sun on this little blue-green planet of ours, and to make it special me and a few friends visited one of the first board game cafes in the UK, Thirsty Meeples of Oxford.
Needless to say, I was pretty excited! I dashed ahead of the rest of my family, even with a pram, a changing bag and a chubby version of me, her faced stretched by the G’s of my rapidly pumping legs (OK, I exaggerate but I was bouncing a fair bit!). I wasn’t disappointed as we were greeted by the sight of board and card games stacked to the ceiling, the smell of fresh brewed java and the friendly staff, who even put up with the challenges all parents put servers through with our bulky pram and little codewords like ’papoose’ and ‘I think she’s done a stinkelles’.
The game selection was, as you’ve probably guessed, amazing! After my folks took our little one for a tour of Oxford city centre, the rest of us settled down to some gaming! First up was Rhino Hero, ably explained by board game guru Simon. Three cups of strong coffee were not conducive to this game of carefully balanced cards and chunky wooden protagonist, but I absolutely loved it! It’s a great filler and accommodates all ages.
Next up was The Endless River (in German this is known as Der Unendliche Fluss). Another dexterity game, players move three wizards around a board set with ball bearings by pushing it around the table. This is in an attempt to get them to a set position on the board, such as between the two frogs or ghosts as dictated by whatever secret objective card you have. It’s super tricky as the movements are all counter intuitive to what you’d expect. The clever part is the timer die. This has faces of one, two and three, with your opponent trying to roll them in order from one to three. Once they do, your turn is over. Great for kids this one, but didn’t quite hit the mark for me.
To finish off we got a rare treat. Thirsty Meeples had a well-thumbed English copy of Russian party game Spyfall! Tipped to be one of the big hits of 2015 (as soon as Cryptozoic print it of course!), Simon did a cracking job of getting across the difficult concept of how this game works. Essentially, all the players at the table are people at a location, such as a Health Spa or a Circus except one player who is the Spy (no one knows who is who though). Everyone then takes it in turns to ask questions of the other players, however the players have to be careful how they answer. Too vague and you’ll get called a Spy and lose; too concise and the Spy will guess the location all the other players are in, winning the game. It took a couple of goes to get the jist of it, but once we were rolling it was a blast! Very much looking forward to this one being released.
Through all our time in Thirsty Meeples, the place was packed! Players came and went and the hubbub rarely dropped. On no table did I see a someone who looked fed up or peeved. The overall vibe in the air was both relaxed and buzzy, ably fed (ba-DUM-tish!) by the staff and their tasty cakes, sandwiches, gourmet sausage rolls and of course the huge selection of teas, coffees, soft drinks and hot chocolates. I went in eager and raring to go, and left feeling exactly the same. TM is an example of a niche being filled, and filled well. Whilst this may be the first to open in the UK, I sincerely hope it won’t be the last!